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Invention Awards: A Fish-Friendly Tidal Turbine

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How the ECO-Auger Works: The auger creates enough torque to drive a hydraulic pump, which moves oil out of a storage tank through pipes to drive a generator located outside the water. Excess oil pumped in strong currents is diverted to an accumulator tank until the current slows, when it's used to keep the generator turning at the proper speed.  Paul Wootton
ECO-Auger John B. Carnett

Today's featured Invention Award winner is the ECO-Auger, which accesses tidal energy without harming marine life.

W. Scott Anderson spent the past five decades creating complicated machines for manufacturing, including a lipstick labeler and a plastic-straw maker. So when two years ago the 77-year-old industrial engineer invented a fish-friendly underwater turbine that looks like a giant screw, it seemed a cruel twist of fate that every manufacturer he approached said it was too complex to produce economically. But that didn’t stop him.

Invention: ECO-Auger
Inventor: W. Scott Anderson
Cost: Undisclosed
Time: 5 years
Is It Ready Yet? 1 2 3 4 5

There are a handful of companies using windmill-like turbines to capture the untapped energy in tidal streams, bays and inlets and convert it to electricity. But these projects tend to be huge and expensive, and require permanent installations that can disrupt marine life.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Found Zero
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Hey, speaking of turbines, I kinda fell into this group that is making them out of used 50 gal plastic containers. I been kinda experimenting with them, and we tested them in vertical and horizontal positions, but per usual, we were all drunk and we did a butcher's job of it and the thing started oscillating and jumping up and down. That was kind of fun. We had this thing in a wooden frame and when the wind hit it, by Gods, the thing started jumping up and down and walking itself down the incline until it hit the tree-line. It was funny as hell.

See there's this space where redneck meets technology and all kinds of hell breaks loose. Like the time we carried a spare tire all the way up Cadillac mountain just to set her loose and watch her roll.

Honest injun, it took 5 minutes to see that tire hopping trees that were 50 feet tall. Man that tire seemed to roll for hours. You could call it dad-blamed irresponsible or even lethal. At the time, we were doing a redneck experiment in applied physics. And we all learned something: a tire, set to roll from the top of Cadillac Mountain could possible really, seriously hurt somebody. Hurt 'em bad. Real bad. Lights and sirons bad. Ah the stupid days of youth. If I could go back in time, the only thing I'd change is boys, how about we roll this thing down THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN? Like the side that NO HUMANS ARE TRYING TO WALK UP?

As an adult I like to think I excel at teaching kids how to behave totally radically but WITHOUT GETTING HURT.

Hey mui kittans, there is a time and a place for EVERYTHING I tell my young students. Can you even believe people trust me with their kids? But I tell them you wanna shoot guns? Fine, we can all go shoot guns. Certain rules apply. Wanna break the law and set off fireworks? I got one better for you: we're going to aim them at each other and have a war. We gotta be really careful not to start a brushfire. You kids wanna sneak beers? Fine with me. I am taking everybody's car keys and you can explain to your parents why you can't get home in time for curfew. I seen too many dead kids. And I happen to like kids. They need boundaries. They need to know somebody will dress them down if they act out too much. Nobody, I don't care about their age, I don't care if they are your son or daughter, if they even get so close as to smell a beer, they ain't driving. With freedom comes responsibility.


Well anyways, we set this turbine to hopping and it was so much fun, we drug it back up the hill and did it again. And again. It was pretty fun when it went straight for an approaching car. Probably you, responsible parents looking for your reprobate son or daughter, but our mentor actually learned how to use this thing for more than just it's wildly destructive potential, he got hisself a stator from Ebay. A permanent magnet stator. Other people call them "dynamos" or whatever, the thing is this thing don't need power in to produce power out. And we got this thing spinning and he got like 30 watts peak power out. Not bad for a start. Not bad atall.

Well last we heard, the guy intended to but multiple plastic barrel turbines up and give it way more force. And I'm kind of scrathing my head as to WHY? Most dynamos or stators PLATEU in power. They reach a certain RPM and they peak. So what do we do with all that excess turning power?

We increase resistance, right? We seek to convert the engergy into a usable, storable form, right? OK, what do we do with like 5000 pounds of lateral force? Run a whole shitload of dynamos? It won't even slow the thing down.

OK so you can build yourself a nifty turbine out of a used 50 gal drum. Do a better job of bisecting it that we did, try and make your cut dead-center so you end up with balanced halfs. Not like we did or the thing will start a-jumping and oscillating and before you know it, it's in the neighbor's yard. But if you got some wind on your property, it's a really cheap and easy way to generate some power. Believe me. When you see a 30 pound apparatus start to hop and skip across the land like a living thing, you know we got kinetic energy.

And you know all kinetic energy just screams "use me or get out of my way". Kinda like kids. Kids just scream "let me help and be involved" and you can use them or just GTF out of their way.



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